Back in the early 1990s, the Unification Church demanded an apology from a brash real-estate mogul they accused of using the church as “a scare tactic” in a “morally reprehensible” effort to get Palm Beach, Florida, officials to grant his zoning wishes. But that religious sect, founded by Sun Myung Moon — and thus often derisively called the “Moonies” — has apparently since made amends with that owner of Mar-a-Lago.
While many current officials and former presidents marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last September at ground zero, former President Donald Trump instead offered commentary for a pay-per-view boxing match in Florida and virtually addressed a Christian Nationalism event at the National Mall. And he sent a recorded message to a conference held by the Unification Church. He thanked the Church’s Universal Peace Federation, and he praised the widow of the sect’s founder for her “amazing example of the power of faith in Almighty God.”
Then on Sunday (Feb. 13), Trump sent new video remarks to a Unification event deemed as the “Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula.” He recounted his “historic” meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, adding: “We got along. In fact, we liked each other a lot.” Trump also criticized “the weakness of our current leaders in the United States” for the fact that North Korea recently tested missiles, insisting that “would never have happened if I were president.” And he pledged to fight for rights given “by the hand of Almighty God.”
“America will be back and we will be back stronger and greater than ever before,” Trump added as he spoke in front of a backdrop that made him look like he was floating above the earth. “Please join me in working, striving, and praying for a Korea that is safe, prosperous, flourishing, united, and finally at peace.”
The former president wasn’t alone in adding his voice to the Unification Church over the weekend. Former Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle also sent virtual greetings. And other prominent Republicans even flew over to South Korea for the summit, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Trump’s top religious advisor Paula White.
Each of them lavished praise on the Unification group that hosted the meeting and on Moon’s widow who now leads the faith movement, Hak Ja Han Moon. The American politicians also peppered their remarks with religious references and biblical quotations, suggesting that the Unification Church shared their Christian faith.
Other than a few tweets and undetailed news reports, this religious-political gathering that attracted significant politicians from dozens of other nations went largely unnoticed. So, we watched hours of the Unification summit to offer a look at what’s going on and why it matters (but don’t worry, we didn’t convert).
In this issue of A Public Witness, we take you inside the Unification Church, its unusual religious teachings, and its quest for political influence. Then we listen to what U.S. politicians said at the most recent event to offer a word of warning about this heretical movement.